SCA Alum Jay Carter On Hand to Give Opening Speech
Today at Allegheny Commons park in the North Side of Pittsburgh, SCA joined community conservation leaders, City Rangers, YMCA staff and campers, Mayor Peduto, and David Jayo to kick off the Let’s Move! Outside Pittsburgh initiative. SCA alumni council member, Jay Carter, gave a speech to kick-off the inititative, and brought the house down despite a torrential downpour. Here is the complete transcript of Jay’s speech:
Thank you all for being here today and for your leadership in providing young people with opportunities to play, learn, serve and work in the outdoors.
I am Jay Carter, a Student Conservation Association member with National Park Service Every Kid In A Park initiative. Currently, I am working with the city of Pittsburgh’s park ranger corps at Riverview Park. My job as a ranger is to educate visitors about our parks’ resources and history, and to promote a safe and fun place to explore.
Let me share with you all a short story:
Once upon a time while walking in the woods I came upon a tree with falling leaves. Something about the way it swayed gave me shivers down my spine. I knew those leaves weren’t falling for no reason. As I got closer I couldn’t believe my eyes. A huge black bear sat at the base of the tree rubbing its back against the bark. Not sure if it spotted me or not, but I was really scared. I cupped my hand over my mouth and tried to remain clam. It felt like a dream until I heard a voice in the distance calling my name. Suddenly the bear ran off and that was the beginning of my SCA summer at Allegheny National Forest in 2005.
It certainly would not be my last outdoor experience with SCA. I later traveled to Maui, Hi to build trail in Haleakala National Park. There, at the age of 16 I saw the Pacific Ocean and witnessed the Milky Way for the first time. Later, I was asked to map trail in Alaska for the Bureau of Land Management.
My outdoor experiences went from the inner city streets to rainforests, deserts, and snow-capped mountaintops—a series of what most people would consider completely surreal moments. I didn’t fully understand the geology or history of these parks, but I understood just enough to know there was power in these lands.
The magnificent sceneries healed my soul and taught me about the importance of wildlife and how vital education in understanding what’s in our own backyards and why we should protect, preserve and promote these places we call the Great Outdoors. Growing up in Hazelwood, Pennsylvania was no walk in a park—but I always believed that we the people—including me—could change our community if we just believed and worked together.
These experiences drove me to learn what conservation truly meant, until SCA came along. I began by volunteering at my local community center picking up trash. Soon I enter the City Council building to persuade a councilman to hire me. I remember him telling me to go home and get some references. I thought that meant having my mom call him and tell him how great a worker I was, so I had her and half of the neighborhood call him.
Somehow, I landed an internship and quickly learned that I needed to read more and ask more questions to understand the terminologies and dialogues they were having. I listen in on a lot of interesting debates and I recognized this was an opportunity to demonstrate to my councilman that my community needed help and I was going to play a role in fixing the place I called home.
Whether you are a politician or a conservationist, rich or poor, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate someone’s passion for wanting to uplift their community. And while Haleakala was truly spectacular, you don’t have to travel from Pittsburgh to enjoy the benefits our public lands have to offer. There are 120 state parks and conservation areas in Pennsylvania and over 30 parks right here in the greater Pittsburgh region. Safeguarding these places does require some sacrifice, and your presence here today demonstrates your willingness to support our efforts.
Through the Student Conservation Association, I’ve been able to combine my passion for the environment, urban youth and health lifestyles by working with youth on the Appalachian Trail from Ohio to Maine, restore portions of Allegheny National Forest, and serve as a National Park Centennial Volunteer Ambassador at Natchez Trace Parkway. If you take a look around you today, there are a handful of young people who also care deeply about our natural and cultural resources and we must work together to continue moving people outdoors.
I’m not sure whether it was during my short political career, but somewhere along the line I learned that no one cares what you said…they care about how you made them feel. I believed parks can be a place of empowerment for young people. By our actions we can set an example for moving kids outdoors for a healthier, more active lifestyle and to learn about our wildlife and sustainability.
I stand here not because I am a product of SCA, but because I AM SCA. Healthy people start with healthy environments. So Let’s Move!